Part 1 of 2: City of Ashland budgets $127k for travel and training

Part 1 of 2: City of Ashland budgets $127k for travel and training

This is the first in a two-part series on the city’s travel and training spending so far in 2017. Look for part 2 in the Aug. 14 print edition of The Daily Independent.

ASHLAND The City of Ashland has spent more than $38,000 this year on travel and training for employees, not including members of the police and fire departments.

The city reimburses or provides travel advances to its personnel for mileage and meals if they drive outside the local area for work-related trips or trainings. The city also provides a per diem based on the distance, and pays hotel bills when employees stay overnight while on the job.

The only employees who drive city vehicles – other than emergency and utilities workers – are new City Manager Michael Graese and City Engineer Ryan Eastwood. Gas reimbursement for all other employees is about 53 cents per mile.

The total amount budgeted for travel and training for all departments this fiscal year is $127,479. The city budgeted $127,022 last year.

Cities with populations similar to Ashland’s handle their travel and training funding differently. The funding is often based on the city’s revenue stream and geography.

Ashland’s travel and training budget is less than the Ccty of Paducah’s, which has about 4,000 more residents than Ashland. Paducah receives more annual revenue than Ashland and has a general fund budget of about $23 million and Paducah has about $33 million.

Paducah budgeted $377,000 this fiscal year for travel and training and spent $250,000 on travel and training last fiscal year, according to the city’s public information officer.

The distance from Paducah to Frankfort, Lexington and Louisville – where most trainings and seminars for city government employees are held – is significantly more than from Ashland. Therefore the city pays more in gas mileage reimbursement to its employees.

The city of Radcliff, located near Fort Knox, has a population of about 22,000 and is about an hour and a half to Lexington or Frankfort, and less than an hour to Louisville. Radcliff’s total revenues are far less than Ashland’s. Radcliff’s total budget this fiscal year is about $15 million while Ashland’s is $49 million.

Radcliff budgeted $25,600 for travel and training. Radcliff Finance Director Chance Fox said the city has about 15 pool vehicles for employees to use for travel outside the local area.

Rather than reimburse its employees for gas mileage, Radcliff employees use fuel cards. The city only reimburses traveling employees for hotel stays and meals.

Fox said he believes the gas mileage reimbursement system is often a waste of tax dollars. If Radcliff reimbursed its employees who use personal vehicles for an 80-mile trip, it would owe the employee about $42 when actual fuel costs in would only amount to about $5 or $6. Ashland has a 17-year-old vehicle in its fleet that could be used as a pool car but it is not used, according to the finance department.

The Daily Independent was provided 620 pages of City of Ashland travel and training expenses this year through an open records request.

The bulk of the $38,540.95 spent on travel and training through July went toward the city’s departments of community and economic development, engineering and utilities and human resources.

Economic Development: $6,806.58

Water Distribution: $5,146.52

Water Plant: $4,515.26

Human Resources: $4,316.65

Planning and Code Enforcement: $3,121.82

Wastewater Collection: $2,556.57

Voucher and Section 8 (Housing and Urban Development): $2,280.11

Street Maintenance: $1,820

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG): $1,773.84

Engineering: $1,416.93

Mayor and Commissioners: $1,351.36

Ashland Bus System: $894.26

Sewer Plant: $878.80

Finance: $833.03

Recreation and Pool: $420

City Clerk: $345.20.

Utility Cashier: $38.52

Utility Director: $25.50

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